CHASTITY vs. “WHOLE-MINDEDNESS”


Grant me, Your servant, the spirit of chastity (σωφροσύνη, tselomudrie, whole-mindedness), humility, patience and love.” (Prayer of St. Ephraim, part 2)

The Greek word “σωφροσύνη” is often translated as “chastity,” which, like the Slavonic word “chistota,” tends to make us think of total abstinence, a full stop to sexuality. It thus tends to isolate or even ban all issues of sexuality from the full picture of our “spiritual” journey. But the word “σωφροσύνη” means much more, which is why its proper Slavonic translation is helpful: in Slavonic, the word is translated as “tselomudrie,” which literally means “whole-mindedness.” This word places issues of sexuality where they belong: within the full picture of our journey to salvation.

Issues of sexuality become problematic and “sinful” precisely when they take on a life of their own, separate from our “whole-minded” approach to God. After all, God knows about this side of our humanity, because He created it, as one of His gifts. So sexual issues, including inappropriate sexual desire, need to be placed before God, handed over to God, and discerned, like anything else, in light of other gifts of the Holy Spirit, like love, faith, patience, gratitude, and humility.

Let us pose the appropriate questions to ourselves in this area, so it’s not living a life of its own: Have we let self-seeking, dishonesty, lust, power-hungriness, sheer boredom, and so on, distort our sexual conduct? Have we put ourselves first and disrespected others? Or have we disrespected ourselves in these matters?

Let me shed His light also on this area of life, in a “whole-minded” manner, and let His loving grace guide my approach to it.

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